Generally, the day of the week does not dictate my food choices, although of course, there are usually more opportunities to eat out and indulge on the weekends. (And that’s fine! Just do it…yep, you guessed it…mindfully.) I can’t quite pinpoint the exact Aha! come-to-Jesus moment that helped me to quit going on junk food benders every single weekend, but I think more than anything I became fed up with starting all over again on Monday. Basically, my desire for change became stronger than my desire for a pint of ice cream.
So friends, would you like to stop starting over? Do you want to feel good in your own skin and reach your weight loss goals? Then I think it’s probably time to figure out how you can make healthier choices during the weekend. Here are my top tips:
1. Stop dreaming about the all of unhealthy foods you want to eat. Stop it. Right now. I choose to focus on how I can make a healthy choice, instead of devising a plan on how I’m going to “cheat.” That helps me to zero in on all of the foods I CAN eat and not on the ones I “can’t.” This way of thinking keeps me in a more positive mindset and allows me to stay concentrated on my goals. For instance, if a sudden desire for ice cream or pizza strikes, I start thinking of healthier alternatives that might satisfy the craving. Doing this creates an energy shift that will make you less focused on the unhealthy choice. The longer you let your mind stay focused on the junk food, the more you will want it. You will start visualizing how good it will taste and you will find ways to justify the indulgence. Trust me, I’ve been there. So set the intention to make good choices and when it’s time to treat yourself, make a conscious decision and enjoy it!
(Photo: Brunch at Bikinis)
During these moments, I also think about WHY that craving came about. And then I drink a big glass of water. Cravings occur when your body is missing something it needs, which can be water, nutrients, sleep – and in the psychological sense – comfort. I know that might seem hard to believe in the heat of the moment when you feel like you could rip someone’s head off for just one bit of a cupcake, but it’s true. Knowing that there is actually a biochemical reason for cravings will help you to feel like you have control over them…even if it means getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Do you think I stopped binging on ice cream and pizza on the weekends out of sheer willpower? No. When I started eating a (mostly) whole foods diet, the cravings for junk food significantly decreased because I was giving my body what it truly wanted.
2. Don’t worry about what your friends are doing. I still struggle with this. I want to be liked. I want to be part of the group. I don’t want to be seen as the Pollyanna of healthy eating. But the truth is, you have to do what works for you, no matter what everyone else is doing. And yes, I know it sucks to watch your size 2 friend polish off a cheeseburger and fries like it ain’t no thang, but being resentful and jealous will not keep you in your happy place. And if you aren’t in your happy place, you will have a much harder time reaching your goals and making good choices. Start accepting YOUR reality and everything will be so much easier.
I can honestly say that nine times out of ten I don’t look on with envy when others are chowing down on unhealthy fare while I’m eating something green and leafy. Of course I have my moments of “wishing it was easy” like it appears to be for others, but I really try not to dwell on those thoughts or let them linger too long. But don’t get me wrong, you should get excited about food and treating yourself when you’re out with friends. Just be sure that you are eating foods because you really WANT them and not because you feel like you should join in.
(Photo: Oatmeal with a side of fruit from The Dutch)
It took me quite a while to learn that social gatherings and dining out really are much more about the full experience than the actual food you are eating. I’ve read that tip in health magazines countless times, but I never believed it until I went out to dinner with a group of girlfriends and only ordered a glass of wine and shared an appetizer. (I was so broke at the time!) But you know what? I had a lot of fun just catching up and laughing with my friends. The food was not the star of the night and it made me realize that I can enjoy myself without overeating – and in this case, eating much at all!
3. Make healthier food swaps for your favorite treats. I know, I know, you’ve heard this one before. Well, I can tell you from experience that it works. A few Saturdays ago, I had an ice cream craving and as much as I tried, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Instead of hitting up 16 Handles or getting a cone from a local favorite, Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, I went home and made a smoothie. It was cool, creamy and refreshing, and by golly it totally hit the spot!
If you eat the healthier alternative and STILL have a strong craving for that treat, then have it. Indulge that craving. Obviously doing this risks consuming MORE calories than if you had just eaten the darn cookie in the first place, but that’s OK. You are learning. It’s all trial and error, and discovering how to deconstruct your cravings will only help you later, and eventually it won’t seem so confusing. This practice also helps you to be mindful, which you know I’m a big fan of. If you never try eating frozen grapes in an effort to ward off a trip to the froyo store, then you’ll always give in without slowing down to recognize how much you actually want it. (Disclosure: This tip was inspired by something I read years ago in Bethenny’s book Naturally Thin).
4. Be honest with yourself. When you are trying to lose weight, it’s easy to have all of the good choices you’re making in the forefront of your mind and dismiss all of the unnecessary pieces of string cheese, nibbles of chocolate, spoonfuls of peanut butter and extra glasses of wine that might be keeping you from making the progress you desire. So that’s why I say be honest with yourself. Sure, maybe you hit the gym four times this week – fantastic! – but did your food choices on Friday night undo a lot of that hard work? Are you eating mindfully or are you absent-mindedly eating handfuls of chips and dip?
No, you don’t have to be perfect. I’m not perfect. You can indulge in your favorite treats. Really, think about it: Will a 400-calorie ice cream cone and a couple slices of pizza a week keep you from reaching your goals? No. But it what’s you do in all of your other food opportunities that count. Don’t deprive yourself of all of your favorite foods, only to later take pity on yourself that you can’t eat them. That is a recipe for destruction and a lifetime of yo-yo dieting.
Whenever I have a brief moment of feeling sorry for myself that I have to be so consistently mindful about my choices, or that I eat so well but still can’t shake the last five pounds, I stop and remind myself of all of the treats I have enjoyed recently. That helps me to realize that maybe I indulge more than I’d like to acknowledge sometimes. And this might sound weird, but whenever I want a treat, I try to think about the last time I had one. Recalling that memory almost helps me to enjoy the experience again, and sometimes it’s enough to help me pass on whatever impulse food choice I was tempted to make. (I mean, really. Just take a look at these brunch photos. Does it look like I’m lacking in the treats department?!)
(Photo: Homemade Blueberry Pop-Tart from Ted Bulletin’s in D.C.)
5. Don’t be so strategic about “cheat days.” While I think having a plan is key to all areas of life, I don’t map out “cheat days” because I like to eat intuitively. If I have it set in my mind that I’m having ice cream on Sunday afternoon, then chances are, I’m having ice cream on Sunday afternoon…whether I truly want it or not. (You remember what happened with the post-10K pancakes, right?) There are two different sides to this argument. Some say that having a cheat day to look forward to at the end of the week helps them to be “good” on the other days. I do understand how that can work for many people, but for those of us who struggle with emotional eating, it can definitely backfire and set off food triggers.
On the flip side, I recently read an article that said that people who have small indulgences throughout the week are less likely to binge on the weekend. Again, I see how this theory works, and I think I do this subconsciously. I look forward to the PB-banana toast I eat every morning during the work week, and if you follow @wannabehealthnut on Instagram, you know I sometimes treat myself to French toast. I add extra cheese or nuts to make salads more appealing and I make sweet potato wedges on a weekly basis because it’s something fairly healthy that helps keep me excited about food. And on most Saturday mornings, I put out an oatmeal breakfast bar with fruit toppings, brown sugar and nuts. It’s become a weekend ritual and I always enjoy it. These little things really add up and help me to stay on track.
Figure out what works for you. If a planned cheat day helps, then fine. But ask yourself how constructive it actually is, and throw all the “rules” out the window. Who says you have to eat pizza on Saturday night instead of a big kale salad or a nice piece of fish? Eat in a way that will help you reach your goals. Don’t let them stray far from your mind, especially on the weekend. Sure, you deserve to treat yourself, but you also deserve to be healthy and feel good about your body.
On that note…TGIF, friends! Enjoy your weekend and make choices you can be proud of on Monday.
*Need help with your health and lifestyle goals? Want to lose weight without obsessing about every bite you put into your mouth? I’m a Board Certified Health Coach + Emotional Eating Expert; contact me for a free consultation and let’s get started!